MediaShower kindly invited me to be interviewed by them about best practices for using social media for B2B vs. B2C marketing.
Here’s what I have to say:
How should businesses approach marketing to other businesses through social media compared with marketing to consumers?
In general, I think that social media marketing is easier to a B2C audience, especially when the price point is low. End users often make emotional decisions, quick decisions; on their own.
B2B marketing is much more complex. Imagine a company looking to buy software or hardware worth millions of dollars. The sales cycle is very long, many different decision makers are involved, the only emotional aspect for those involved is not wanting to lose their jobs by making the wrong decision.
As the IBM ad catch phrase in the 80s went: Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. The buyer wants to feel the same is true for your product.
Is Facebook more suitable for B2B or B2C marketing?
From my own experience in working with clients, I would argue that Facebook is more suited for B2C. Personally, I am on Facebook for pleasure and not business. Although there are people I work(ed) with on Facebook, we rarely talk about work.
But I wouldn’t be a good marketer if I didn’t put my own feelings and experience aside and looked at the numbers.
Apparently, B2B is used quite heavily by Facebook marketers; but I have yet to see the convincing numbers to support the use of Facebook vs. other channels for B2B. It’s important to calculate opportunity cost.
I would argue that for lower-cost B2B deals, B2C tactics can work, as the sales cycle gets shorter and simpler, the lower the cost of the product or service.
Also, many large companies use Facebook as a loyalty program. People who are already clients or fans mingle, chat, and get excited about the latest news.
What are some of the surprising advantages of using social media for B2B marketing?
I usually get a surprised reaction when I tell people how much easier it can be to get a response on Twitter than on email. If I have a specific ask, I often follow that person on Twitter, ask them to connect on LinkedIn, check out their blog, and comment if relevant. Pretty much, I try to get noticed by popping up in the different places where they share content.
Then I reach out via Twitter – publicly, if they have not followed me back, privately, if they have, via Direct Message. More often than not, I get a response and we continue the conversation via a phone call or email.
This is not specific to B2B or B2C. But ass B2B has a longer sales cycle and influencers are crucial to gaining trust and credibility, B2B marketers are more inclined to spend the time to reach out on a 1-1 level.
Here a case in point: Earlier this year, I read an article in the New York Times about a couple that lived on Airbnb for a full year. I sent the author a LinkedIn request and contacted him publicly on Twitter, asking if he would be willing to talk to me, as I was planning to write a similar article about my year on Yerdle.
He followed me back and offered his help, we chatted a bit on Twitter DM and then ended up talking on the phone for an hour. It was wonderful.
What are some of the challenges businesses face when it comes to B2B social media marketing?
In my own consulting practice, I see these top three challenges:
1. An underestimation of what it takes to do it right. More often than not, clients are surprised about the effort required to create a successful social media strategy. Without doing your homework, you can’t succeed. Know your target audience, that’s THE most important thing to spend time on.
2. Lack of resources. Companies frequently understaff social media efforts, believing that existing employees can simply add this “activity” to their workload. Worse, they hire an intern, arguing that “young people” know social media, while they often lack business experience.
And as social media now requires a large investment in paid, companies need budget to fuel the advertising machine.
3. Lack of budget. Social media is free, right? Studies by firms like Forrester prove that a mix of organic, earned, and paid social media promises the biggest ROI. Without an investment in paid social media activity, it’s now almost impossible to make a real dent. Social media has changed quite about over the past year. Organic efforts are very important but organic alone can be a very hard and long road.
What brands do you think do an especially good job using social media for B2B marketing? What can we learn from them?
Everybody is always looking for leaders in the field and the magic bullet. As the social media field is constantly changing in terms of tools and features, a key ingredient is a willingness to experiment and take risks.
On the other hand, I am a firm believer in doing your homework. Setting clear, measurable goals, knowing your audience inside out, and prioritizing ruthlessly on the social channels to use.
Lately, I’ve been quite impressed by Maersk. Who would think that you can make container ships sexy? Maersk impresses with amazing photography and smart campaigns on all of the big social media channels. Kudos!
Also, I am often impressed by Hubspot as they eat their own dog food. They offer a marketing automation tool (I am simplifying) that does a great job in content marketing. I suggest you subscribe to the Hubspot newsletter to find out what I am talking about. They create a ton of good content for social media marketers. Every time I read an article they send me, it says, “You might also be interested in XYZ,” at the end of the page. I am pretty much, 99 percent of the time, interested in “XYZ” and sometimes am almost am annoyed at Hubspot, as I could spend my day learning from their content.
What can we learn?
Know your audience and what content they crave. Then give it to them, where and when they want to read it.
What are your favorite social media tools for B2B marketing?
In my mind, LinkedIn is the premier social media platform for B2B.
Reach: Most business professionals have an account.
Features: You can have a company page and group(s). You can blog, you can share updates, you can find amazing audience segmentation information, and advertise.
Reach: Popular with business professionals. There is a barrier to entry as the tool is not intuitive to use but I believe that this barrier results in better qualified users as participants have to make an investment in learning Twitter to play.
Features: Easy to share, engage, build relationships, as well as to learn. Follow the right people or create lists and you can stay on the pulse of what’s going on your space easily.
What tools do you think are ineffective or not as useful in this area?
I don’t like to make blanket statements, as every company has a unique situation that their marketing strategy needs to fit around.
In general, I tell my B2B clients who have limited resources to de-prioritize Facebook and Pinterest. Again, you have got to know your audience and where they get their information, so it’s a case-by-case decision.
While everybody should have a complete (!) “About” page on Google, with all the changes G+ has just gone through, I have also de-prioritized G+ for now (but I haven’t given up on it).
If you are a local business, make sure you are on top of “GoogleMyBusiness” as the new algorithm favors local businesses in close proximity to a user, e.g. in map search.
What do you think is the future for how businesses use social media to reach other brands?
As big brands that want to stay competitive go through a digital transformation, new roles like the Chief Digital/Technical Officer are becoming more commonplace and more powerful. Marketing is becoming increasingly data driven, as the tools to aggregate, analyze, and make intelligent decisions based on data become more readily available. This also puts the CMO and CDO in a position of having to make IT decisions. This will impact how budgets are allocated in corporations. Skill sets needed to fill these roles will change.
What marketers of the future will want is to understand their target audience’s intentions. Predictive marketing is currently only looking at past behaviors to predict future behaviors. In the future, brands will be able to understand their audiences present intentions and communicate with them accordingly. IoT is likely to play a big role here.
Read the article on MediaShower here. Follow me on Twitter @NaThomson.
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